Eastern Bay chasing De Francis Dash berth
Built Wright Stables’ 8-year-old gelding Eastern Bay, riding a two-race win streak, will be chasing both his 17th career victory as well as a return to stakes competition Sunday at Laurel Park.
A win in featured Race 7, a third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up sprinting 5 ½ furlongs that has drawn fellow stakes winners Alwaysinahurry and Exculpatory, could earn Eastern Bay a shot at the $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash July 16.
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Owner-trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash nominated both Eastern Bay and fellow Grade 3-placed Sir Alfred James to the De Francis. Eastern Bay was second, beaten a head by recently retired Laki, in the 2020 De Francis – then a Grade 3 race – for previous trainer Claudio Gonzalez.
“If he wins tomorrow and he comes out OK, then we’re going in the De Francis,” Cash said. “The reason being is, if we don’t get the win then we can still keep running in the same condition, protected. If we get the win, then we’ve got to look up and up the claiming price. If we get this win tomorrow, then we’re going to look to the De Francis.”
Cash, who owns all the more than 40 horses he trains, is no stranger to wheeling back horses quickly. Sir Alfred James came back in seven days off a ninth in the Forego at Turfway Park to run third in the General George (G3) Feb. 19 at Laurel.
Eastern Bay is favored at 2-1 on the morning line and will be ridden from Post 3 by seven-pound apprentice William Humphrey, who has been aboard for all three starts since the claim including wins May 28 at Pimlico Race Course and June 19 at Laurel. Cash also entered Outlier, in for a $44,000 tag.
“He’s a really nice horse,” Cash said of Eastern Bay. “This time we’re in for the condition and not for the tag, which is really nice. Apparently, I learned how to read a condition book. We were worried last time that we’d get claimed. I didn’t realize that I could have run for the condition then, too, but we got lucky. And he won pretty easy last time, too, it seemed like.
“We have a second horse in there, too, this time that has a little front speed that might actually help the race set up,” he added. “Outlier is usually a distance horse, but he likes the front end. So, we’re excited.”
Cash claimed Eastern Bay for $35,000 out of an April 3 win for Gonzalez. Overall, the son of E Dubai owns 16 wins and $677,478 in purse earnings from 46 career starts, and is 11-for-32 lifetime over Laurel’s main track.
In his most recent stakes attempt, Eastern Bay ran third in the six-furlong Frank Y. Whiteley last April at Laurel. He was a 1 ¼-length winner over Laki in Laurel’s Polynesian one start before the De Francis in 2020, his lone stakes triumph.
“He had back class where he had run really well in the past. I think a lot of people might have been afraid of him because he’s 8 years old. He’s training great and, I’ll be honest, I think he’s running the best of his life right now,” Cash said. “He was a very good horse before we got him. Sometimes it’s just a little change in style and sometimes it’s just being in the right place when the horse feels good.
“Another thing we did is we put William Humphrey on him and so we’re getting seven pounds off, and that probably brought him a little ways, too,” he added. “Instead of running around the track with an extra seven pounds on your back, it’s got to help to be lighter.”
Based at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Kentucky, Cash keeps a string of nearly two dozen horses at Laurel. He entered Saturday ranked fifth at the summer meet with five wins from 18 starters (28 percent) and $190,540 in purse earnings.
“We’ve had really good success and good luck with claiming these types of horses,” Cash said. “I think it’s a combination of just being there at the right time and maybe changing things up just a little bit that maybe freshens a horse. A change of routine might freshen horses a little bit, and then the weight coming off. It’s exciting.”